Above: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Gaia Gaja, Angelo Gaja’s daughter, was super fun to hang out with. I interviewed her over Chicago redhots for my PalatePress piece on my encounters with 3 iconic Italian winemakers in “second-tier” American cities.
Alfonso likes to call it “flyover” country: that glorious swath of land, that sweep of the scythe, those amber waves of grain that span from Chicago to the Rio Grande, the Middle West, Mittelamerika, the Third Coast, the Second Cities. In other words, the America that the Left and Right banks often ignore when it comes to the purveyance of fine wine and dining.
I’ll concede that I probably drank more old wine, thanks to the generosity of collectors, when I lived in cities like New York and Los Angeles. But, honestly, my food and wine life has only become more stimulating and rewarding since I moved to Austin, Texas. (Well, everything has become more stimulating and rewarding since Tracie P née B came into my life.)
Above, at dinner in Austin, from left clockwise: Tracie P, Dave Meyer (Banfi, Texas), Mark Sayre (my super good buddy and wine director Trio, Austin), Wes Marshall (The Austin Chronicle) and wife Emily, Lars Leicht (Banfi, whom I’ve known forever), and Rudy Buratti (winemaker, Banfi).
When I realized that I would be having dinner and tasting with 3 iconic Italian winemakers in 3 different “flyover” cities, over the course of just 5 days, I thought it would make a good piece for PalatePress (and thankfully so did the editors!).
Gaia Gaja of Gaja in Chicago, Rudy Buratti of Banfi (and newly elected member of the Brunello producers association 15-person advisory council) in Austin, and Giampiero Bea of Paolo Bea in Houston.
Above: Another pleasant surprise was the 1999 Banfi Brunello (top vineyard) Poggio all’Oro, a wine I would not typically reach for (nor could afford). It was honest and delicious and it tasted like Montalcino. Great wine.
The fact is that top Italian winemakers are traveling more frequently to markets they’ve neglected in the past. I recently found out that Giorgio Rivetti (producer of the infamously created-just-for-the-American-market, jammy, syrupy, ridiculously concentrated Spinetta wines) visited Austin last month. “It’s not often enough that a true gentlemen like Giorgio spends time in Texas,” wrote one wine blogger/merchant.
This is certainly one of the reasons I’ve been lucky enough to have some interesting wine encounters lately.
But then again, as the jingle for the ol’ So Cal franchise Love’s Wood Pit BBQ used to go, when you’re in Love’s, the whole world’s delicious.
Special thanks to Palate Press editor Meg Houston Maker for believing in the piece and eagle-eye editor Becky Sue Epstein for whipping my piece into shape! :-)